By: Dave Bernstein, Tara Marie Ahn, and Christopher Hoffman
Unless you were unplugged from society in 2015, we shouldn’t have to tell you that it was another HUGE year for a cappella.
It all begins and ends with Pentatonix and Pitch Perfect 2, with a whole lot of great albums, videos, and news in the middle.
Before we begin, we just want to note that we have revived the monthly news posts at Acatribe so pay attention at the beginning of each month for all the relevant news from the previous month. In light of preparations for this post, we are skipping a formal December post but you may find some December news scattered in here. We will also include some of the big news from the September, October, and November news posts but you can read the rest on the summary post for each individual month. As always, if you have big news you’d like to share, feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Finally, if you can think of some noteworthy a cappella news we omitted (and we’re sure there is plenty), please feel free to comment below or email us and we will update the post accordingly.
Also, though she is credited as a co-author, we have to note that our own Tara Marie Ahn did a ton of the work here and is very deserving of most of the credit. Show her some love on Twitter!
So, let’s dive right in with the box office and music charts success of Pitch Perfect 2 and Pentatonix, respectively.
Pitch Perfect 2 was…a little bigger than expected. As in it grossed nearly $70 million in its first weekend and found up at $184 million domestic at the box office, and another $103 million elsewhere, for a total worldwide gross of nearly $287 million. So, yeah. A cappella is even more mainstream than you might have thought. The movie did fine critically, for what it is, garnering a 66% at Rotten Tomatoes and getting decent reviews at Entertainment Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter, and the Los Angeles Times, among others.
The movie also won the Top Soundtrack and Anna Kendrick thanked Deke Sharon and Ed Boyer in her acceptance speech.
Pentatonix did more in 2015 than we can fairly recount here. A few of their notable highlights, however, were:
- released an album (“Pentatonix”) which became the first a cappella album ever to hit number 1 on the Billboard 200 chart
- appeared on The Tonight Show, The Today Show, PBS News Hour, the NBC Christmas Tree lighting at Rockefeller Center, New Year’s Rocking Eve, and so much more
- written about in or interviewed by Time magazine, ABC News, The New York Times, USA Today, Entertainment Weekly, People magazine, US magazine, Billboard magazine (x2), and more. The group was all over social media as well, even taking over the YouTube twitter handle for awhile.
- signed an international publishing deal
- released “On My Way Home,” a tour documentary which is available for purchase and on Netflix
- performed at the American Music Awards, where they were introduced by Harrison Ford (!) and then performed a Star Wars medley. Read about it here (with video)
- the group appeared on ABC’s The Muppets program and announced the winners of the MACY’s a cappella challenge. Congratulations to Briarcrest Christian School’s One Voice, UCD’s MIX, and Orange Center Elementary School.
Obviously there is plenty more Pentatonix news from 2015, but again- we can’t possibly get to it all. Feel free to add or share in the comments below!
In other media news, Sing It On aired on Pop TV. The show followed the Nor’Easters, All-Night Yahtzee, No Comment, Pitch, Please!, and the AcaBelles as they prepared to and eventually competed in the ICCA’s. If you missed it, the show is available on Netflix now.
A Cappella The Musical premiered at the New York Musical Theater Festival (featured here and reviewed here back in July) and later won the New York Music Festival Stage Rights Publishing Award. Congratulations to Greg Cooper, Vynnie Meli, and the whole team!
BBC Two had a new talent contest to find “Britain’s most entertaining amateur singing group” called The Naked Choir with Gareth Malone. Here is the link to the main page, though it isn’t clear how viewers in other parts of the world will be able to watch.
Music notation software company Noteflight announced the winner of their a cappella competition, Brandy Kay Riha. Brava, Brandy!
For those who wanted to know more about why Sara Bareilles left The Sing Off, this article was a revelation.
The A Cappella Education Association hosted their first annual National A Cappella Convention in Memphis, TN April 23-24. Attendees from 31 states enjoyed dozens of performances, masterclasses, roundtable discussions, reading sessions, clinics, presentations, and more. NACC was also home to the first ever a cappella exhibit hall.
Deke Sharon, of course, has played a critical role in both the Pitch Perfect movies and The Sing Off. He is always busy, always involved, and always working. In November, he went to Facebook HQ and working with their resident group The Vocal Network; he also did Q&A which was available to watch live on his FB page. The new book “A Cappella,” which Deke co-authored with Ben Spalding and Brody McDonald, was released and is available for purchase on Amazon here. The press release for Deke’s Vocalosity tour was issued with a promo video.
Home Free had their debut performance at the Grand Ole Opry and Country Evolution debuted at #4 on the Billboard Country charts. They collaborated with Kenny Rogers, The Oak Ridge Boys, and Charlie Daniels. They were booked to appear on The Tonight Show, but after multiple cancelled flights and finally a private chartered plane-they were unable to make it on time (full recount here). Facing a hefty monetary loss, the band turned to GoFundMe, explaining their situation and hoping to absorb a part of the financial loss. In less than two hours, their 10K goal was met. After 15 days of launching their campaign, family, friends, and Fries have almost tripled this amount. The group also made an appearance at the offices for Billboard magazine, held an AMA on Reddit, and appeared on television.
Straight No Chaser kicked off the Indy 500 with their take on “Back Home Again In Indiana“, the classic that Jim Nabors brought to the iconic event dozens of times over the past several decades. They celebrated their eleventh consecutive sold-out show at Hershey Theatre in Hershey, PA. They have performed in 47/50 states in the U.S., as well as 13 countries in Europe. They released their fifth full-length album, The New Old Fashioned, with covers that continue to highlight the ‘twist’ they’re known for, as well as an original song written by Don Nottingham. They appeared on ‘The Today Show’ three times in the month of December.
The Swingles (formerly known as The Swingle Singers) released two albums-Deep End and Yule Songs Vol. II. They held a celebration concert, For Ward, in honor of founding member, Ward Swingle, which featured around 40 former members who came together in remembrance of his legacy. The group also performed with and opened for jazz vocalist and composer Kurt Elling at the London Jazz Festival, and the Guardian offered a very positive review. They also announced that CJ would be leaving the group.
Take 6 made a trip to Cuba- yes, CUBA- to perform, which was covered here. Also, the group’s sound engineer (and former Sing Off contestant- Urban Method!) Tony Huerta blogged about it here. The legendary group also released their first single, “When Angels Cry,” off their upcoming album “Believe.” They also performed in Australia, Europe, and Japan.
The House Jacks won a Contemporary A Cappella Recording Award (CARA) for Best Pop/Rock Album for their album, Pollen, featuring original collaborations with groups from around the world. We also spoke with some collaborators and wrote about the album here. Founding member, Deke Sharon, left the group to focus on producing, educating, and promoting a cappella worldwide. They welcomed back Troy Horne and added Mark Joseph to their current lineup. They also released their first ever holiday EP.
Cadence, now in their 17th season, toured in Dubai, Taiwan, Italy, Germany and Slovakia as well as Canada and the U.S. New audio recordings were paired with three new videos that met with critical acclaim. Musical collaborations included recording with David Clayton-Thomas (Blood, Sweat and Tears), a feature performance with the one and only Bobby McFerrin, a live performance with Holly Cole, and a joint venture with world famous sand artist Ksenyia Simonova.
The Manhattan Transfer welcomed Trist Curless as their new bass. They teamed up with Take 6 and presented “The Summit” to select locations. They were proud to be a part of NYC Stands For The Troops: A Night of Music and Laughter to Benefit Our Vets at The Concert Hall at the NY Society for Ethical Culture. They toured throughout the United States, as well as several countries in Europe.
Blue Jupiter worked in conjunction with LifetimeTV to create the new a cappella reality TV show, Pitch Slapped, starring their very own Diana Preisler. They partnered with Empire Carpet to rewrite their jingle. They appeared on this year’s Sing-Off Tour. They co-produced SingStrong DC and Chicago, as well as continued their education outreach with performances throughout Connecticut.
Street Corner Symphony hit the road on The Sing-Off Tour with VoicePlay and The Exchange (videos here). They played their hometown show at the Ryman Auditorium to a packed house. They checked off several additional states, including the northeast and the northwest. Richie Lister announced his retirement from the group and Kaleb Jones (of The Collective, Sing-Off Season 3) joined their ranks.
The Exchange performed with Street Corner Symphony and VoicePlay on The Sing-Off Tour and released the 7-track album “Pursuit.” The group was interviewed in a local paper before headlining the Kettering National A Cappella Festival and traveled from Arkansas to Alaska, Germany to Australia (including at the Festival of Voices) to perform all over the globe.
Ball In The House was excited to be a part of this year’s Sing-Off Tour. They reached a whole new audience as Amazon Prime subscribers received e-mails featuring their Prime Day jingle. They produced and performed in a joint concert, All A Cappella: A Night of Triple Delight, with Traces and Stiletta. They released a brand new Christmas album, Home For Christmas. In addition, they were selected as a Top 10 finalist for FOX’s Next Empire Artist.
Eh440 spent more days on the road than at home, visiting countless U.S. states and performing as far away as Germany and Austria. They welcomed new member, Jake Stern to their ranks. Jake recently played Jesus in the National Broadway Tour of Godspell The Musical.
Honey Whiskey Trio opened for the legendary vocal group, The Manhattan Transfer. They chose Courtney’s amazing (and first) arrangement of “House Of The Rising Sun” to a standing ovation and got to sing an encore. They performed at the American Roots Festival in Ashland, TEDx in Temecula, and completed their first Pacific Northwest tour.
MICappella had a “unique” year according to founder Peter Huang. The group traveled to Europe to perform twice, with other trips to Malaysia and China as well. Several of the group’s videos gained traction, including one which hit 1 million views in the first 5 days (check it out on their FB wall). Unfortunately, the group’s record label also shut down operations, but they remain optimistic and are working on a new album, with more original music, which they hope to release on their own in the first half of 2016.
Postyr signed with Danish label Iceberg Records and later released their new album, “Paper Tiger,” in Denmark. We talked with soprano Tine Fris about it here. The album will be available worldwide next month. The group also streamed a number of performances live on meerkat and held their annual summer camp in Hamburg.
Maybebop released not one, but two albums in 2015. The German quartet released the excellent “Das Darf Man Nicht” and then followed it with the Christmas album “Fur Euch.” Both albums received excellent scores from RARB. The group released these albums on their own after leaving Warner Music and their prior management company. The group also performed 120 times in 2015, including three sold out concerts with the NDR Radio Philharmonie. Enrique Ugarte arranged the group’s songs for the large orchestra and those of you who speak German (or just want to see some photos from the events) can check out more here. The group also released 7 videos, each of which is terrific.
Club for Five made the trek from Finland to Boston to headline the Boston Sings festival. Late in the year, they released their new album “Ennen tätä hetkeä,” which is on the Warner Music Finland label.
Duwende had a fun and varied year which brought them from Texas to sunny Florida, to Coca–Cola HQ in Georgia, and even to their hometown of New York City. In between their travels, the group released a bunch of videos on YouTube and documented their travels and performances with 16 VLOG entries that you can find on their YouTube page.
The Edge Effect released their third studio album, “Uncovered,” as well as a song and video for “Little Drummer Boy.” Half of the proceeds from the latter will go to Toys for Tots every Christmastime. The group also performed on numerous cruise lines, particularly Royal Caribbean and started a scholarship fund at Daytona State College.
The Funx performed in California with m-pact and Premiere A Cappella and also in Los Angeles with The Filharmonic. They opened for Motown singer-songwriter Valerie Simpson at the Music Has Power Awards for the Institute for Music and Neurologic Function in New York. They also performed in Florida. They started a Patreon campaign, continued work writing and recording for their all original album, kicked off a long-distance music video project, and raised money for youth music programs around the country.
Lady Jaye released their first album, FLUX, which offers commentary and a glimpse into the individuals who make up Lady Jaye’s thought processes behind the album, and includes a collaboration with The Jeff Love Band and a collaboration with Christopher Diaz of The Exchange. The track “Life Round Here” was selected to be on the SING 12: This Big! compilation CD. Their track “Put Your Hands On Me” was featured on Voices Only Forte IV and WACA Vol. 2.
Stiletta won the Mid-Atlantic Harmony Sweepstakes, taking home not only 1st place, but also Audience Favorite and Best Arrangement for “Royals”. They auditioned for NYC’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) Music Under New York program and were accepted as one of only 26 groups (out of over 200 applicants). After bass Julie stepped down, they conducted auditions for three months to find someone as talented and with as an amazing low range. Olivia Harding fit the bill and she’s been dropping low As and Bs without a second thought. In addition, they added new member, Stevi Incremona, after saying a temporary bon voyage to their rocker chic, Meg, as she embarked on her tour of the high seas in “We Will Rock You The Musical”.
Traces recorded and released 3 songs, as well as their very first formal music video and we were featured on the cover of the aforementioned book by Deke Sharon, Brody McDonald, and Ben Spalding, “A cappella.”
RESOUND was granted a number of amazing opportunities in 2015, including opening for gospel artists such as James Fortune, William Murphy, Tasha Cobbs, Kierra Sheard, Zacardi Cortez, and Jonathan McReynolds and performing at SingStrong DC and SingStrong Chicago. The group also performed at Richmond, Virginia’s City Hall and sang the National Anthem for the men’s championship game at the MEAC basketball tournament.
Catch 22 won Audience Favorite at SingStrongDC. They opened for the Charlotte Symphony at the Kannapolis NC Independence Day celebration. They performed local gigs with Cognitive Resonance, Midtown Quartet, and Second Shift, in addition to having their busiest holiday performance season yet!
Accent released their first EP, Here We Are, and met in real life for just the second time ever at the London A Cappella Festival. From there they had subsequent meetings: first at the Gene Puerling tribute concerts at the University of North Texas where they were asked to speak on a panel about vocal jazz influences; then at the EG Conference, a gathering of brilliant minds in arts, humanities and sciences; and then again at La Ciudad de las Ideas in Puebla, Mexico.
VoxPop won the 2015 Aca Challenge competition at the Lincoln Theatre in Washington, DC. They headlined a cappella showcases at World Cafe Live at the Queen (Wilmington, DE) and Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts (Annapolis, MD). They released four singles: “Runaway Baby”, “Don’t Cry“, “Done“, and “Weightless“. Thy performed for a packed crowd at the National Christmas Tree as part of the National Park Services annual program at the White House Ellipse.
MIX headlined the National A Cappella Convention in Memphis, traveled, performed, and competed at the Aarhus Vocal Festival in Aarhus, Denmark and was awarded “Most Innovative Performance”. They won the Macy’s A Cappella Challenge for the collegiate level and got to bring home $25,000. In addition, they traveled to Chicago, Vail, and Philadelphia for private, corporate performances.
Pitches Be Crazy had a cameo on HGTV’s House Hunters. They returned to SingStrongDC complete with back up dancers. At SingStrongChicago, they made a splash by filling the auditorium with glow sticks turning the place into a wild concert. They were fortunate to perform with some of the best in the business such as MC Beats, Stiletta, and Ball In The House. They rocked the National Cherry Blossom Festival and played twice for the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
Firedrill! was brought back together after a 5 year baby-making hiatus. They rebuilt the group using the original 2005 membership: Nathan Altimari, Mike Barnicle, Eric Fosbury, Mark Manley, Victor Sandman, Judd Tomaselli and Matt Wrobel (this group hadn’t sung together since 2007). They recorded and released “The Walk“, their first single since their CARA winning album in 2010. In addition, they launched their 2006 EP Rock Paper Scissors and their 2010 album Sings Without Music, Vol. II in digital format.
Fermata Town won 2 CARA Awards (Best Jazz Song and Best CAL Album). They made their international debut at the SING Toronto Vocal Arts Festival. They also made their TV debut on WGBH Boston’s program, Sing That Thing!, where they were named the Small Adult Group Champions.
KeyStone A Cappella performed at World Cafe Live in Wilmington, DE with Vox Pop and UD Vocal Point. They recorded personal videos for one of their Kickstarter reward tiers. A song of the backer’s choosing was arranged, recorded, and sent personally. The songs were: “Fix You” (Coldplay), “What A Wonderful World” (Eva Cassidy version), “When I Fall In Love” (Nat King Cole), “One and Only” (Adele), and “Hold On” (Tom Waits). They performed a few holiday shows, ending the year at World Cafe Live Philadelphia.
Face vocal band performed 109 times in 2015, including a 17-day European tour (from which live album “CONNECTIONS” was later culled), opened for Home Free twice and for Culture Club with Boy George, and performed at the famous Red Rocks ampitheater for a 9/11 stair-climb and fireman benefit.
Frisky Business released their single “Grown Woman” and enjoyed their debut performance at NACC in Memphis where they hosted the sessions. They spent a week in North Carolina during the summer of 2015 at DioVoce recording their upcoming album. The group’s “Grown Woman” was featured on WACA Volume II.
Jerry Lawson was individually inducted into the Doo Wop Hall of Fame and performed with the Groove Barbers (3 original members of Rockapella plus Kevin Weist), and you can watch that here.
Finnish vocal rockers Fork released their live DVD and CD “X,” celebrating the group’s 10-year anniversary.
Canadian 80’s synth pop cover group Retrocity released their new album “Mixtape.”
a.squared recorded a studio album which will be released in early 2016, and the group plans to tour in spring and early summer. The new album will feature the two singles that the group has released, “Perfect In the Dark” and “Headspace.”
Cartoon Johnny worked on a collection of recordings. They also supported Alzheimer’s research performing “Remember Me” at SingStrongChicago and at the Cure Alzheimer’s Fund‘s annual symposium in October.
The Filharmonic made their movie debut in Pitch Perfect 2. They sang a riff-off with Anna Kendrick and James Corden on The Late Late Show. They traveled to and performed in Manila for the first time.